can I ask for an extra week of vacation, even though I’m entry-level?

A reader writes:

I work at a very small organization (less than 10 employees). I’ve been working here full-time for just over a year, though I was a part-time intern for the preceding year. I currently get two weeks of paid vacation. There is no rigid policy regarding approval or recording of vacation days.

This is my first full-time job out of college, my position did not exist before I started working here, and I’m essentially entry-level, so two weeks of vacation seems reasonable in that sense. However, the only other full-time employees here are two senior vice presidents and the CEO. They all get significantly more time off than I do. I am not sure exactly who gets what, but I know my boss’s vacations for this year will add up to at least four weeks. (She’s one of the two SVPs.) All the other employees are part-time with very flexible hours. They are paid on an hourly basis.

So here’s my dilemma: I would really like to ask for an additional week of vacation (paid or unpaid). Part of me is thinking that this is an unreasonable request, as I’m just out of college and have only been working here for a little more than a year. The other part of me is frustrated that over the course of the year, I spend much more time in the office than any other employee, since I’m the only full-time person without extensive vacation. Does this caveat make my request any more reasonable?

I would love to get your take on this. If you think it’s worth asking for another week, I’d also really appreciate your advice on how to approach this topic with my boss. One reason I’m hesitant to ask is that I’ve only used one week and one day so far this year, so I don’t know if asking for more time will seem silly given that I have four unused days.

I don’t think it’s crazy to ask.

That said, I also think you’re probably looking at through the wrong lens. It’s not unusual (in the U.S., that is) for entry-level employees to get two weeks of vacation a year while more senior people get four — or more — weeks. That’s pretty common, actually; vacation time is often based on seniority (with people earning more the longer they’re with a company) or is negotiated as part of an offer (with more senior people able to command more, just like with salary). So I don’t think that you should get frustrated that over the course of the year, you’re in the office two weeks more than SVPs; that’s a pretty normal thing.

If you were at a large company, I’d tell you to accept that this is how their benefits work and that asking for the same benefit levels as SVPs and the CEO wouldn’t get you anywhere. But you’re at a small company with only four full-time employees; that means that they likely have a lot of flexibility with PTO, and if you’re doing awesome work, they might be perfectly happy to give an extra week off each year. So I don’t think it’s outrageous to ask. (But again, that assumes you’re doing awesome work. If you’re not, all bets are off.)

And I wouldn’t worry about the fact that you’ve only used a week and a day of your time so far this year — in fact, you can even cite that when you ask for more, explaining that you find yourself hoarding your time and hesitating to use it at all, since there isn’t a lot of it.

However, if you’re asking for it to be paid vacation, you’re essentially asking for an increase in your compensation package. In that case, I’d approach this very similarly to how you’d ask for a raise. (You can find advice on that here.)

But if you’re willing to take it unpaid, which it sounds like you are, that’s often an easier sell. Just ask your boss if she’d approve it. I’d say something like: “Now that I’ve been here a year, I’d love to talk to you about my vacation time. Would it be possible for me to have three weeks of vacation a year rather than two? It’s okay with me if the third week is unpaid; I’d just like the flexibility of having that additional time off available.”

At such a small company, your boss probably has the flexibility to approve this. But if she doesn’t approve it, at least knowing that it’s not a horribly different arrangement than lots and lots of entry-level folks have* might help.

* In the U.S., that is. Everyone outside the U.S. finds this outrageous. As someone in need of a vacation, I lean toward agreeing.

{ 120 comments… read them below }

  1. Holly*

    Yeah, it’s always kind of amusing to me, in a bittersweet way, when I come across comments about wanting more expanded holiday time in countries where the norm is already 4-6 (on average) weeks. 4-6 would be so awesome, oh man.

  2. Ani*

    Yep, 6 weeks is basically 3 years’ worth of vacation where I work until you’re more senior (and of course, there are a lot of U.S. workers that have no paid vacation at all).

    1. Rebecca*

      My company maxes out at 4 weeks vacation at 15 years. 3 weeks at 5 years, 2 weeks to start. Our PTO time has been reduced to 5 days per year, and none of it can be rolled to the next calender year.

  3. jill*

    I get four weeks as entry level just for annual leave and another four to six as time off in lieu, two weeks of sick time, one week of family leave.

    Thank you unions and thank you Canada.

    1. OhNo*

      Out of curiosity, how strictly controlled is the use of sick time and family leave time? I mean, do they have a set list of situations/events that qualify for use of family leave? Are you requiredto use sick time for doctor’s appointments, or can you choose between sick leave and regular vacation/PTO time for those? Or those kinds of regulations on an organizational or case-by-case basis?

      I ask because I’m used the the US time-off schedule, and every place I’ve ever worked has had more of a combined PTO pool for vacation, sick leave, and any other kind of leave you might need.

      1. HR Generalist*

        That’s one huge difference between Canada and US – US often has combined PTO pools while our types of leave are separate (sick, vacation, family leave, personal days, etc.). Ours are monitored fairly strictly – if you are taking the day off you must request it and declare what it’s for. If it’s vacation/personal leave, you’re just subject to operational requirements (and your limits as far as seniority/entitlements go). If it’s sick leave, family leave, etc. you may have to provide supporting documentation- like a doctor’s note or an appointment card.

        In general, combined PTO pools are considered unfair as an employee who is sick could be using up all of their vacation entitlement. For us, if you’re on vacation and you get sick, you notify us immediately and we change your vacation time from that point forward to sick time, so you aren’t using up that annual leave.

        1. HR Generalist*

          And our collective agreement has a set list of situations/events that qualify for certain types of leave. Doctor’s appointment you could choose between family leave (if it’s for a dependant), a personal day, or vacation time. For a pregnant woman, you can use your pregnancy-med appointment leave. If you’re already off sick and going to the doctor, it would fall into your sick time. Those would be regulated on an organizational basis- ours are split into union/non-union regs.

        2. AVP*

          That last bit about changing your annual leave to sick time if you get sick while on vacation just blew my mind.

          1. Chinook*

            “That last bit about changing your annual leave to sick time if you get sick while on vacation just blew my mind.”

            If it makes you feel better, AVP, I actually know of no one who has said they have done this (of course, they could just not be talkign about it) but it is nice to know that, if you get the flu on day 1 of a week long vacation, you are not SOL.

          2. doreen*

            I’m in the US, have had jobs where I could do that and have known people who did it. Never someone who was under the weather for a day, but people who were sick enough to go to the doctor and got a note saying they had to be out for at least three days.

          3. joey_aam*

            I did that on my last vacation; I think my body went into shock at how cold a US winter with snow was. Turned the last couple of days of my vacation plus a few extra days into sick leave.

        3. Felicia*

          I think the difference in Canada is that we have legally mandated minimums of vacation time, where in the US there is no legal minimum. We also seem to have more specific labour laws in general – like for Canadian “is it legal?” questions, the answer would/could be no more often.

          1. KarenT*

            It’s true, although the legally mandated minimum in Canada is two weeks, so if the OP is in Canada she still wouldn’t have a legal case.

            1. Felicia*

              That’s true – though if they’d asked if it was legal for the employer to give them no vacation, that would be a no in Canada. (and in every other developed country that’s not the US)

        4. Anonsie*

          An appointment card, oh my goodness– that is such a genius way to validate an absence, assuming the appointment doesn’t have to be on the same day? I can never get a same-day appointment (putting aside my normal objections to doctor’s notes for sick days) and it’s been an issue in the past.

          1. doreen*

            I can use an appointment card to document appointments – or I can get a note at the time of the appointment. (if I’m taking four hours or less I don’t need any documentation) The appointment card would be used for a follow-up appointment – I see the doctor today, make a followup appt in two weeks and get a card. I find it easier to provide copy of the appointment card when requesting the time off than to remember to get a note.

        5. Chinook*

          PTO pools are also considered unfair in Canada as vacation pay is considered part of your pay and unused portions must be paid out when you leave whereas sick leave is not. If you pooled both, a cheap employer could insist you used all your vacation pay when you were out with the flu so you technically don’t have any money coming to you even though you never took a vacation day.

        6. mm*

          My US organization (a medium size non-profit) combines sick and vacation but has a separate bank for FMLA or disability. I love having my PTO combined because I rarely use sick days (2 days in the last 10 years) so that leaves me with a little over six weeks per year for vacation.

          1. Ani*

            Oh no no no — some advice I got when young at a job that did this is not to use sick time this way but bank it. Bank at least 2 weeks for an emergency like a death in the family. There are employees who have taken 4-6 weeks sick time or more when hospitalized. That’s what the employer is paying sick time for to cover and won’t double pay you for later. If you want 6 weeks paid vacation negotiate it.

        7. Beth*

          Lots and lots of places in the US separate out the various types of PTO, and I would say that in certain work environments, such as higher education, separate “pools” of PTO is the norm. And, if Employer A offers two weeks sick time, two weeks vacation time, and Employer B offers four weeks total, to be used however, there’s no “unfairness.” It offers more flexibility. If you were at Employer A and you were sick for longer than 2 weeks, you’d probably have to start using vacation time, anyway. If you rarely get sick, Employer B is much better for you. The difficulty comes in with stingy employers who offer a “typical” amount of PTO – say, two weeks – and say, “by the way, that’s two weeks total, sick and vacation combined.” THAT is very difficult – it would be easy to get the flu and have used up almost all your PTO.

          I don’t understand this:

          “In general, combined PTO pools are considered unfair as an employee who is sick could be using up all of their vacation entitlement. For us, if you’re on vacation and you get sick, you notify us immediately and we change your vacation time from that point forward to sick time, so you aren’t using up that annual leave.” This is typical for the many US employers who offer separate types of PTO. But how is that better than a combined PTO pool if the overall amount of PTO is the same? All it does it basically convert to the flexibility of a combined PTO pool. It’s only better if there is an unlimited amount of sick time or if the separated PTO adds up to more time off than the combined PTO.

          1. Beth*

            (The issue of vacation time being paid out if unused (above) is the only thing which makes the combined PTO seem “unfair.” Realistically, though, most employees do not get sick for so long that with combined PTO they would have wiped out anymore days than they would have had vacation time been separated out, and again we seem to be talking about something more than just “combined” PTO versus separate PTO. We seem to be talking about combined PTO with a definite limit versus separated PTO with some sort of bottomless pool of sick time (or at least separated PTO where the total number of days is much higher than is the case with the hypothetical combined PTO.) There’s also the issue of short term disability, etc. which isn’t being discussed.

            1. Doreen*

              Lots of places have different usage/accrual/accumulation policies for different types of leave. For example I’ve been taking nearly all of my vacation for the past few yesrs so I have only one week on the books right now. Because I am rarely ill, I have six months of sick time. If I plan a vacation and then get sick during it ,the ability to change from charging vacation to charging sick leave means I have leave available to take a vacation at some later date.

          2. Elliot*

            I love our company’s combined PTO pool. We earn twelve hours a month and it never expires. I am also able to flex my schedule so that if I need time off and can make it up another day, I don’t need to use PTO. I foresee a lot more vacations in my future because of it. Much more than my last job where I was sitting on 200+ hours of sick time. I actually think it’s more fair. Actual medical leave aside, healthy employees shouldn’t be penalized by having less time off than someone more prone to cold and flu. But the PTO policy needs to be generous enough to accommodate both types of leave. I think it’s perfectly fair that someone who spent a month being sick and using paid time might have to wait until next year to take a ten day paid cruise, or be required to take the time unpaid when their healthy coworkers are only afforded two weeks paid time off.

            I also enjoy being able to pick up the phone and say, “I’m not coming in,” without messing to explain who’s sick or provide medical notes. Pooled PTO workers are afforded more trust and privacy, since if I’m playing hooky it counts against my vacation, anyways.

    2. E.R*

      I’m also in Canada but the standard in my industry is 2 weeks for usually your first two years of employment at a company. Luckily I’m at a small company now where I offically have 3 weeks, and unoffiically have as much as I want and need (mitigated by my crazy workload, of course). I’ve never worked in a union but I’m also grateful for the Canadian labour / union movement for giving us what we do have.

    3. Colette*

      I suspect that’s more due to unions than Canada – I’ve never worked anywhere that generous (particularly the family leave, which I don’t think I’ve ever had).

      1. KarenT*

        Was going to post the same thing! Most companies I know in Canada start entry levels at 2 weeks and in some cases 3. I’ve never seen anything close to what jill describes outside of a union. I wish!

      2. KarenT*

        Was going to post the same thing! Most companies I know in Canada start entry levels at 2 weeks and in some cases 3. I’ve never seen anything close to what jill describes outside of a union. I wish!

        1. Beth*

          What jill describes is typical for Canadian universities (unions….) but it also happens to be typical for American universities (especially larger ones.) I don’t think most generalized statements about Canadian employers versus American employers are valid as we’re often basing them on apples vs. oranges. Certainly there are some differences due to federal laws but it’s not all utopian in Canada and he!! in the US.

    4. Chriama*

      Um, I’m in Canada and I think it really depends on where you are. Are you in Quebec?
      That being said, I do get 3 weeks vacation, 2 weeks of sick time, and short term disability of 100 days and long-term disability of… a really long time, but at that point I think there’s a whole process you have to go through — I don’t ever want to be sick enough to know the specifics.

      I do like the minimum mandated vacation pay with the 4% in-lieu if you’re a part-time worker. Because I wasn’t making enough money to pay much taxes (and you check a box on the form when you start telling them not to take taxes out of your paycheque!) but I had EI and other things deducted, it always made my take-home more or less equal to my gross pay, which made planning how to spend my money less disappointing ;)

    5. UK Anon*

      5.6 weeks holiday inc. bank holidays, up to 28 weeks statutory sick pay (though this will typically be on a lower wage unless you have a generous employer), unpaid parental leave (18 weeks) and unpaid (unless see generous employer above) leave for emergencies with dependants as reasonable. Time in lieu AFAIK is built up by working over contractual hours some weeks so building up the time to take in other weeks, but I don’t know much so YMMV :)

      Those are just minimums – often you can get more than that. So yeah, two weeks a year seems a bit crazy, especially if that includes sick leave etc!

      1. Rowan*

        I’m barely above entry level and I get 7.4 weeks plus bank holidays plus time off in lieu, which last year added up to nearly two more weeks off. I feel so sad for the Americans. I wish I could share my leave with them!

    6. Shortie*

      I work in the US, and my company gives 2 weeks of vacation and 2 weeks of sick leave after someone has been employed for 6 months. Then the vacation goes up to 3 weeks a few years later and eventually 4 weeks, where it maxes. We also get a few floating holidays in addition to regular “bank” holidays.

  4. Tax Nerd*

    Many employers give -0- days vacation the first year, 1 week the second year (and sometimes for the second and third year), and 2 weeks for the next several years (up to 10th employment full year anniversary) (USA) or until at least VP level. So, 2 weeks starting from first day on the job sounds nice to me.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Likewise. Currently I get 0 days paid vacation until my one-year date, at which point I get a princely one week of paid vacation. However, my boss doesn’t particularly care if I take off unpaid time (but I do!), which gives a little flexibility. Crappy, unpaid flexibility, but sure.

    2. Agile Phalanges*

      Yes. I was recently laid off from a company that started you with three weeks PTO (sick and vacation rolled into one), but I had worked there over twelve years and was earning 5 weeks of PTO per year, to a company that waits until your first year anniversary to even grant you the ONE week of vacation time they allow. And I think I’m eligible for a few days of sick time, too, but it’s seriously not much at all. I’m hoping I can take unpaid time if I just want to take a Friday off for a long weekend or something…

      Which is not to say “suck it up, buttercup” to the OP, at all. It’d always be nice to get more. :-)

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’m in a similar boat, but not quite as bad, so I really feel for you! I left a company where I had built up to 4 weeks’ vacation and some crazy allotment of sick days, plus summer Fridays and 4 personal days. My new company has 10 days’ vacation, 3 personal days, and 4 sick days per year– made no difference that I started as a director. I’ve been lucky in that my boss doesn’t believe I should have to use vacation time for Jewish holidays so I just get those for “free” (paid, not counted towards vacation/personal time), but damn, this sucks. My boyfriend and I were talking about what kind of offer would make me change jobs, and I said I would gladly take a 5% pay cut if I could have more vacation time. There are other factors, but I didn’t realize just how precious all those days are.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I didn’t. Sometimes I regret not doing so, but I later found out that if I had, it would have been turned down anyway– this company sees its benefits as “completely non-negotiable”. When I took the job, the lack of vacation time didn’t even occur to me; I needed out of my old job, I wanted to move to this side of the business, and I was being offered slightly more money for a much slower-paced environment. Oddly, while I lamented the loss of 2 weeks of vacation, that wasn’t nearly as much of a blow as the loss of summer Fridays. I spent nearly a decade in an industry and environment where Fridays are totally blown off between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It was like the first year out of college, when December rolled around and I was all, “Oh… wait… I don’t get a winter break.”

            1. Episkey*

              I hear you. I work part-time now and always have Fridays off. Not gonna lie, it’s pretty awesome.

              I was just curious since I feel like for a director position, maybe they would have negotiated. I think it’s silly that they wouldn’t — they are probably losing out on great candidates who don’t want to be stuck with a lousy vacation/PTO policy.

              At a previous job, I had 8 PTO days per year. And that was everything — vacation, sick, personal. I had come from a company where I had 18 PTO days, plus more company-wide holiday days, so it was a shock. It was only my 2nd job and I didn’t know to really probe about it. It’s a long story, but the business was a little shady and after they offered me the job, they casually mentioned I would be considered a temp for 3 months and wouldn’t get any benefits for that period. They also refused to disclose the benefits until after the 3-month period was over and I was officially made full-time (they said I wouldn’t be “needing” them until that point) which I should have seen as a major red flag, but I was young & non-confrontational.

            2. AnonyMouse*

              Unrelated, but I adore your username. And just so this comment isn’t totally irrelevant, the first time I worked in an office with summer Fridays, I couldn’t believe how serious everyone was about it! Now, I totally see how losing that could be a real blow.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Heh, thanks! Summer Fridays are a HUGE deal in NYC, and probably in other big cities where everyone wants to get a jump start on their escapes from the city. When I was entry-level and had 10 days of vacation, summer Fridays meant I could go on a 2-week tour of China in late June without using my entire vacation bank, and I was so thankful for that.

          2. Agile Phalanges*

            I know you weren’t asking me, but I’m gonna answer anyway. :-)

            I tried to negotiate more vacation for a different job, and they ended up rescinding the offer, presumably because of that because they were very enthusiastic during the initial verbal offer.

            So when I got the offer for this job two weeks before my now-former employer shut down, I snapped it up without even fully knowing what the benefits were. (They’re used to hiring unskilled laborers on the spot, and were not sure how to even handle a written offer.) I figured worst case, I’d keep looking, but it was a job and I was about to be out of one, so I took it. It’s actually working out quite well, though, aside from the lack of vacation time. :-)

    3. HR Generalist*

      America has it rough…

      In Canada, as a full-time employee, you’re entitled to 10 days of vacation time. As a part-timer you’re entitled to 4% vacation pay. No exceptions.

      A lot of private sector employers will never increase those amounts (unless you build up your importance and request it, but you don’t have scheduled increases). In public sector (or higher paid industries, like the oil sands or tech) you have set increases- often start at 10 days. My org starts at 10, one your first anniversary you jump to 15, and then it’s five years when you move to 20. There’s a maximum of 35 days/year.

      My point here is that 2 weeks is bare minimum in Canada. If you’re in a booming industry or are skilled enough that they want you to stick around, you’d be doing yourself a favour to ask for more.

    4. Molly*

      WHAT!? I live in America and I’ve never heard of this, except for jobs with no benefits, like working in a coffee shop or that kind of thing. What industry are you all in? That is not only kind of sucky, it’s a great way to ruin moral and have unproductive employees. Why would anyone senior level EVER switch to a company like that? You’d likely go from great vacation to no vacation in the blink of an eye.

      1. Tax Nerd*

        The ones I’ve been in that actually had that schedule were mortgage banking/finance, financial oversight and analysis (not CPA firm or internal audit), CPA firm (2, actually, one regional, one national), and had friends in various administrative and junior executive positions with medium to large corporate entities.

        As a side matter, I worked in one non-CPA professional firm where the only benefit offered was that my paycheck cleared the bank.

        1. Tax Nerd*

          And you are correct, Molly–in those, we didn’t get any upper level laterals coming to work unless the position was VP or higher (which by-passed all the increments of leave time)

  5. QC*

    My boss is super flexible when it comes to vacation. He will often just give me a day without putting in for my PTO even if I request it because his attitude is “You need the day and get paid the same either way.” He wants me to have a work life balance and knows that some weeks I work 30 hours some weeks I work 60 (I am salaried btw).

    I have the same attitude for my hourly employees. I do my best to give them everyday off that I can. I want them to be refreshed, happy and willing to give me their best every day they come to work. If working with HR to get them extra PTO or a LOA I will in a heartbeat. I feel any good manager should do that with a smile.

    1. Vacation Needer*

      OP here! My boss is super flexible as well, and in a way, that’s part of the reason I’ve been hesitant to ask for additional vacation time. I’m afraid that if I do, she’ll say something like “Oh, well, we don’t need to officially give you another week, you should just take some extra days if you need them.” But knowing myself, if those extra days aren’t guaranteed, I just won’t use them. In the event that I do discuss more vacation with her – which I probably will given the responses I’ve gotten here – I guess I’ll just have to be honest about this.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Well…if your boss is willing to give you the time without it being on the books, are you willing to ask her to go through the hassle of getting your vacation officially changed (which, even at your small company, might raise hackles if someone other than your boss sets vacation policy and the policy is “2 weeks until employee has been here X years/has Y job title”), just for the sake of your comfort level with taking the days? I have to say that as a boss, I’d find this off-putting. I definitely want my direct reports to have time off and be refreshed — and yes, because junior employees are typically offered 15 days of PTO (was 2 weeks vacation and 1 week sick/personal before they converted it into one PTO bucket) and often work long hours, sometimes that means I okay a not-on-the-books day off. This is easy; the employee and I just arrange coverage together and we don’t bother TPTB. But if an employee came to me and said, “I want 20 days of PTO,” then I have to go and fight for it with HR, who is not inclined to make exceptions to policy once an employee is hired. (Candidates often negotiate more than the standard PTO bucket when they’re hired, because they have more leverage when they can turn the job down. But once you’re hired, HR is, all, “You get what you get, sweetie.”)

        This is not to say you can’t ask, but if you ask and the answer is “we can do this off the books,” I think you need to take your boss at her word…and then ask her for the time off the books. It’ll get easier after the first few times you do it!

        1. Vacation Needer*

          Thank you; you make some good points.

          I’ve gotten the sense that we don’t really have any official policies regarding the amount of vacation time people start with/accrue each year. If this is the case, I’m a little more comfortable asking for an official increase. But if I have this conversation with my boss and get the feeling that she’s hesitant to do it officially, I’ll definitely take your advice and do my best to make use of the unofficial days off.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            I disagree with Alison about saying right up front that you would take it unpaid….that is bidding against yourself. Ask for what you want (another week paid) and if you get a no, start negotiating. But don’t lower you ask before you hear what your boss has to say. Otherwise, you might be putting ideas in his head about not paying you for it. Also, I would not make unpaid vacation my first counter offer….if not a week, then how about 3 more days and then two additional days after your second year?

            I hear the concern that you don’t want to decrease flexibility if your boss is already willing to let you have a few extra days off, but I bet you can only take those extra days one at a time….if the vacation time is officially yours, it’s easier to take it in chunks (like a full week) and it’s probably more feasible to plan ahead.

      2. QC*

        If you get the “please take extra days off” from your boss this is all the permission you need. I wouldn’t abuse it but a day every 6-8 weeks won’t hurt anyone.

  6. MR*

    I wouldn’t even bring up that you are willing to take that third week as unpaid. They may be willing to say yes even to a third week of paid vacation, but if you open yourself up to that week being unpaid, you are volunteering yourself to receive a pay cut.

    It’s nonsense that you even have to wonder about a third week of vacation, but since companies generally treat their employees as costs and not assets in this country, it’s how things are here :/

    1. Mister Pickle*

      This. Ask, but let them bring up “unpaid” if they feel it’s necessary.

      Also: I don’t think you should lie and make something up, but it might be helpful if you have a reason for asking for the extra week, ala “my parents were really hoping I could come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas”. People are sometimes more prone to grant a request if they’re given an idea of why you’re asking.

  7. tt*

    Generous time off is definitely something I’m grateful for, working at a university. While some positions earn more time the longer they’re working there, most of the professional positions received a fixed amount of vacation time based on the level of position. I was hired at one level, got 15 days vacation time. Promoted to the next level – got 24 vacation days. You still have to accrue/earn it during that fiscal year, so you don’t get any paid time till you’ve been there a year.

    And then there are the paid holidays, including the time when the University shuts down between Christmas and New Year!

    My poor husband only gets 2 weeks a year and is barely even able to schedule that, so I spend a lot of vacation time alone. It’s nice for a while, but then gets a little lonely.

    1. AcademicAnon*

      On the flip side of this, for a lot of people in academia who aren’t office workers, our schedule at times isn’t 9-5 M-F. I often come in on the weekends or holidays to work, including that week the university is closed from Christmas to New Years.

      1. Cassie*

        Even as an office worker, I sometimes have to work weekends, nights, during the winter holiday. The rest of the world doesn’t all shut down, unfortunately :) Luckily, the off-hours work can be done remotely so at least I can be in the comfort of my own home.

  8. Cake Wad*

    My former employer recently instituted this charming policy for new staff (any level below directors!):
    1) Five days of PTO per year for your first five years of service. Yes, PTO. So that means sick, vacation, anything. Five.
    2) Ten days of PTO per year after your first five years of service.
    3) No unpaid days may be taken. (What if I get the flu and am out for five days, and then have a vacation planned later in the year, you ask? Better cancel that vacation!)

    Directors and above got 20 or more PTO days per year, but were specifically instructed by supervisors to not take at least five of them. Any days not taken by the end of the calendar year would be lost and not paid out to you.

        1. Cake Wad*

          Actually, that happened to someone. She was not allowed to take more than a five day honeymoon or would have been let go. And she had to check in remotely daily during the trip. I quit before the same thing would have happened to me.

    1. Molly*

      If you have so little staff that someone cannot ever take more days off, even at their own expense, and they get only five days, you’ve done something horrible staffing wise. What crap!

      My father used to work for a company where after two days, sick days didn’t count. If you were that sick, they didn’t want you to push yourself to come in and get everyone else sick. Imagine my shock when I entered the real world and realized that was an aberration.

      1. Cake Wad*

        Staffing wise, the idea from the CEO was that if you had the ability to take more than five days a year off, you did not have enough work to do.

    2. Puddin*

      What is the point of having such a limiting policy that normal life event will inevitably cause you to ‘violate’ the policy. And what is the point of having a policy, then telling people that it really is not the policy, so better not take all those vacation days?

      I do not get people sometimes.

      1. Cake Wad*

        Loyalty. Those who always followed the policy (and other company ridiculousness) were given promotions and raises. Those who didn’t were either straight-up fired or life was made so miserable for them that they quit ((waves hi!!)).

  9. LizNYC*

    I read a comment on here on an open chat that said someone’s coworker had negotiated an extra week of vacation by working an extra hour a day every day for a few weeks to make up for that week missed. So 40 hours a week = 40 extra days of staying till 6 instead of till 5 (or whenever your day ends) so you can then take the vacation. This might be amenable to your bosses too.

      1. My two cents...*

        our office do that for some of the development engineers (exempt). sometimes they’re stuck coming in on weekends or staying late into the evening to push through a project, or they’re stuck traveling overseas over a weekend. our general manager will ‘comp’ them extra paid vacation to make up for it.

        and when i was first hired here (prior to our 15-person company being acquired), it was policy that no one get paid vacation time until after a year. when i wanted to take a single day, my manager worked it out with me that i’d arrive 30 min early each day for 8 business days to make up for it.

      2. Traveler*

        I’ve seen this a lot with non-exempt workers (probably more than with exempt actually). It was labeled as “flextime”. Now whether or not that was legal, may be another story.

    1. Elysian*

      Yeah, this wouldn’t be legal for non-exempt employees in the US who work for private employers (government employees have a whole other thing, and you can do whatever with an exempt employee).

  10. Felicia*

    In Canada the norm is also 2 weeks, so I don’t found that outrageous – it’s more that employers in the US don’t have to offer vacation at all.

    And for the OP, it’s pretty normal to get that when you first start, and it’s probably be fine to ask, and if they say no, it’s probably fine to ask again in another year. At my company, you move up to 3 weeks vacation when you’ve been there 2 years, and if i didn’t know that’s how it worked, I would have no idea how to do this either. And you’re much more likely if you emphasize you don’t mind unpaid to actually ge tthe time.

  11. My two cents...*

    AAM’s absolutely on-point with the comment about a week’s paid vacation being like a raise. you’ve worked there for a full year as a full time 100% up-and-running employee (as opposed to the intern bit), and that’s totally reasonable to be asking to revisit your compensation.

    but, then you have to keep in mind that this is your annual ‘shot’ at asking for more compensation*.

    *barring some circumstance where they completely change your job duties, or being asked to also cover for an employee no longer with the company. then, you might have some weight behind asking to revisit compensation again.

  12. Vacation Needer*

    Hi everyone, OP here.

    Thank you all for your responses. I think I probably will bring this up with my boss sooner or later.

    Alison, when you mention “hoarding your time and hesitating to use it at all”, this is a great description of the way I feel right now.

    A lot of people have commented mentioning that many employers are far less generous with vacation time than mine have been. I am definitely aware of this. But I don’t think it’s a reason in itself to refrain from asking for more time off. I have a very good relationship with my boss and I’m lucky enough to be working at an organization with a relaxed attitude towards vacation – so I feel like I should take advantage of that.

    And as for all the comments about how different other countries are in regards to vacation – believe me, I’m aware of that too! Unfortunately, I don’t see the USA’s current policy on this changing anytime soon.

    1. LBK*

      I like this comment a lot. A lot of LWs get downtrodden by the comments – the fact that you’re able to say “I don’t think that’s a good reason to not ask for myself since I’m in a good position” makes me feel like you have a pretty good shot at being successful with this request. Good luck!

      1. CTO*

        Agreed–it seems like OP has a great understanding of her company’s culture and knows that this request is pretty reasonable within that setting. Who knows, they might be eager to give you more PTO as a way to reward you for being a great employee. Maybe all you need to do is ask! Good luck, OP!

        1. Vacation Needer*


          I do feel like I understand the culture here pretty well (it’s not too hard when there are less than 10 employees). What is more difficult is figuring out where I stand – I’m the only full time employee who isn’t at least an SVP, I’m the only person under 30 and the only person hired in the past two years. So I don’t have any peers with whom to compare myself.

          Chances are, my boss and the other more senior employees don’t have an exact grasp on where I stand either. So I guess that’s a good reason to stick up for myself and push them (a little bit, nicely) to treat me more like an equal member of the team.

          1. Chinook*

            “Chances are, my boss and the other more senior employees don’t have an exact grasp on where I stand either. So I guess that’s a good reason to stick up for myself and push them (a little bit, nicely) to treat me more like an equal member of the team”

            This is a good point. I have often worked for people who have forgotten what the benefits are like for those of us farther down the corporate ladder and don’t remember that I only get 2 weeks vacation or company phone or… When I speak up about their assumptions, they are usually ?sheepish? about forgetting that there is a difference (which I take as a compliment as they see me as one of “them”).

    2. Tax Nerd*

      You are most correct–what my experience has been has no bearing on your situation and isn’t a reason not to ask. I put in my post for the others who have never experienced such, and to illustrate the wide variety of situations here in the USA.

    3. AcademicAnon*

      Also how many holidays is the business closed for? If it’s only Christmas and New Year’s, then that matters too.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I think that you should tell the boss the way you feel- “hoarding all the time and hesitating to use it”.
      I can see this playing out a number of ways, since they sound like reasonable people. It could be that she says at the three year mark you get another week anyway. Or it could be that she says that she cannot fix the two week limit but she can increase your sick/personal time. My point is that we tend to think of these questions as yes or no answers. Take a few minutes to think about what else could be offered and would you be interested in that.
      Good luck!

  13. Snarkus Ariellius*

    My husband has you all beat.  He has worked for two companies that don’t even keep track of vacation time.  You take what you take when you need it.  If you take too much, then it gets addressed, but everyone was scared of losing this awesome benefit that no one abused it.

    LW, you sound like me ten years ago at my job.  The underlings were in the office most of the year while the senior VPs were constantly out.  I remember we all got an option to have flex time on Fridays in the summer, but a new CEO banned it for senior VPs.  (They weren’t even putting in the extra time anyway.)  In retaliation, they took all Fridays off in the summer and used their vacation time.  I was always shocked at how much vacation time these guys had.

    This was back in the days before telecommuting so I know they weren’t working from home.

    It was so much easier for the senior staff to take vacation because they all had assistants and underlings to handle anything that needed to be done.  The opposite was not true.  On senior VP didn’t know how to attach a file to an email and another didn’t know how to refill his stapler.  No I’m not kidding.

    1. Shortie*

      I used to work somewhere that didn’t track time off. It was “take what you need” as well. The employees, including me, hated that because you didn’t know what was acceptable and what was abuse. Is abuse one week, two, five? What if you’re sick a lot one year? Can you still take vacation? Basically, nobody ever took time off because they had no idea what was okay and what wasn’t.

      1. Elysian*

        Yup, my husband has this system and doesn’t like it. He thinks it discourages people from taking time off, for the reason you said. Also, when places have limited vacation days and/or “use it or lose it” policies, people feel like they have to get the full value out of their days, so they’ll take time off just to use up days (its a mental trick more than anything if its not use it or lose it – like “hey, I have 15 days of vacation and I’ve only taken 8. I guess I should go out of town for a week or something!” People actually end up using their time off that way because they see it as more a part of their benefits package than “unlimited” vacation is.

        1. Bea W*

          My work is a ghost town in December for this reason. People don’t want to lose it, so everyone uses it…at the same time.

        2. LBK*

          Agreed. If I have 4 weeks of vacation, that means there is an understanding between my boss and I that I could potentially that that much time. If it’s “unlimited” then it’s really vague what the expectations are – and my boss could be surprised if after already taking 3 weeks throughout the year, I requested a week off for a long trip.

          If he knows from the start I have 4 weeks of time allotted to me, there’s no surprises when I use it.

    2. GeekChick603*

      We have unlimited PTO where I work. No one wants the benefit to go away, so no one abuses it.

      If you need a day / week / etc. you get it approved and you take it. Sick time is approved as long as you call (Email, Text) in before your shift, or early in your shift if you start when we open in the morning. Vacation approval is always weighed against your project schedule and other people who have already scheduled days off on your team.

      Work/Life balance is so important to the company that it’s written into your annual review, as in, do you have a good work/life balance and do you support your team members to do the same?

  14. Kona HI*

    The OP mentions that he/she doesn’t know exactly how much vacation time the SVP and others get. People that have been there a long time may have saved up enough accruals over the years to be able to take off 4 weeks in one year.

  15. Dasha*

    When I was entry level I had no paid time off. It was awful, if I missed a day I didn’t get paid! (This comment has nothing to do with the OP’s situation, I’m just complaining).

  16. Kirsty*

    Wow, I get 25 days a year (from the UK) even in my previous job, I’d only been there a year and had never done that type of work before, my CEO there used to get 45+ days for his. Think I’d of argued non stop with colleagues if I only got 2 weeks away from them a year. It’s can’t hurt to ask, would love an update on this if you get one!

  17. Anony*

    Do most U.S companies separate sick, vacation, personal time? I use to work for a company that gives you, for example, 20 days and you use it for either sick, vacation or whatever you need it to be. I don’t like how companies separate it bc then you can’t use sick days as vacation days.

    1. Shortie*

      My company separates sick and personal, and I prefer it that way. I rarely take sick leave, so have a lot accrued and like the security of knowing that if I have to have major surgery or something, it won’t eat into my vacation time. My husband’s company lumps them, and he doesn’t like it because if he gets sick, there goes a vacation day.

    2. Bea W*

      First full time employer had a common bucket. That worked out well for me when I got mono. Current employer separates but it us all “use it or lose it”. We can’t accrue a comfy back-up of sick time. It’s a good thing I am unlikely to get mono a second time.

      I don’t have a preference for one way or the other. The upside of the bucket method was that was all paid out to me when I left where sick time is not normally paid out, only vacation.

    3. Daisy Steiner*

      In NZ the standard is for them to be completely separate. In my mind, it makes sense because they serve completely different purposes. Vacation days are for refreshing and resting – they are an entitlement as much as your salary. Sick days are used as needed – they are an extra benefit that is provided to people who have the need of them. At my old job we got 20 vacation days each year, which we could save up to a certain extent. Plus we got 10 sick days a year, but we couldn’t save them up – if you didn’t use them, it was because you didn’t need them as you weren’t sick, which is kind of a perk in itself.

      1. Daisy Steiner*

        If a long-term illness or injury meant that you needed more than your 10 days of sick leave, this would be organised on a case-by-case basis. If you ran out of sick leave, you could dip into your vacation days, and then apply to take unpaid leave after that.

  18. Vacationvacation*

    I went through a similar issue during my first job out of college but for a one-time extra vacation. I was working for a small company with two assistants (I was one of them) and four senior level workers. I had no idea what kind of vacation everyone else had, but I had two weeks paid vacation. I had just started a few months prior (so I didn’t have a year’s worth of credibility yet or many vacation hours), but I wanted to visit my grandmother for a big birthday and join my family on a ten-day trip. I talked it over with my parents to discuss strategy (they’re not helicopter types, but they do share their opinions when warranted), and we thought there was no harm in me asking nicely about getting an extra week off unpaid, especially if I asked as early as possible, which was about two months in advance. My employer approved it when I approached my boss to see if that was possible, and I was really happy I had had the courage to ask.

  19. Lia*

    My husband’s former employer initially did not track sick time, but then an audit found “excessive” time taken, so a new policy of three sick days per year was implemented. Yep, 3 days. Unfortunately, that change occurred a month before illness put husband in the hospital for a week. Luckily, he was able to use vacation time, but ugh.

  20. Nina B*

    When I read the text and all those comments, I’m really happy I’m in Germany. 30 days of vacation (and I had as many right out of college) and if I’m sick, I’m sick. As long as I give them a paper from my doctor proving I am sick, I get all they days I need.

  21. Sharm*

    Every time one of these posts comes up, I really wish it were at all feasible for me to move to Europe. 10 years to get to a month of vacation? I mean, really?

    OP, it sounds like you have a good grasp of your situation. I say go for it.

    I have always wanted to negotiate for more time off during the salary negotiations, but I tend to focus on salary first, and then feel anything else is “asking for too much.” I’m not entry-level now, but I’m not a VP either. Curious if I’m at the place where I could start doing that during the offer stage. How much is reasonable to ask for though? If they give you two weeks vacation, can you ask for a week more? 3 more days? It’s so hard to tell.

  22. Mallory*

    I’m moving to Canada and joining a union!
    I work in the US(Obviously) and worked for a police dept. for a few months. Because it’s governement, it had GREAT PTO/sick/vacation. It was somewhere around: 8 paid holidays, 10 vacation days, accrued PTO at 2 days per month, and 8 hours of sick pay accrual for every 80 hours worked. It was wonderful, but I didn’t like the job so I left.
    My current employer has an accrual of 1.2 hours PTO for every 40 hours worked. This, for our average 36-38 hour a week employee, works out to 6.5 days of PTO per year. No sick time, no vacation, we ONLY have PTO.
    Our company is closed for every holiday(which is unpaid) and closes for the week between Christmas and New Years.
    At the end of the year, our office averages being closed for 15 or more work days.
    So, with this PTO accrual, you can either take a vacation, or you can get paid on 6 of the 8 major holidays.
    It’s terrible, the only upside for me is I’m allowed to take unpaid time.

  23. Josh Davey*

    I’m so glad to see this post because it’s similar to one that has been on my mind!I’m in a similar position: lucky enough to be in a job I love, with the caveat of vacation time.

    The problem though: EVERYONE else in the company gets the same number of PTO (15 days). EVERYONE. Asking for it myself would be to ask for a big exception.

    With this in mind, would you guys recommend: 1) Asking for it in the first place, 2) How to ask for this without looking like a slacker whose first priority isn’t work , and 3) how do you go about asking for this (wait for an appraisal, write a summary in an email note asking for a meeting, or just mention it casually)?


    1. Vacation Needer*

      Hi! This is OP so I obviously don’t have the experience to answer your questions, but I have some thoughts on possible solutions and want to mention them so others can weigh in.

      – Have a casual conversation with your manager about the exact policy regarding PTO; mention that you’d really prefer to have more time but not in a way that implies you are actually asking him/her to change the rules for you. Chances are your manager will just say “yes, I wish I did too!” but maybe they will suggest a work-around.

      – Make some specific plans for a trip which would require an extra few days/week off. Then bring up this plan with your manager and see if you can get the extra time, paid or unpaid. I feel like they’re more likely to make a one-time exception than make a permanent change to your allotted PTO.

      – This one I’m really unsure about: Wait until a review or another time you’re being offered some sort of increase in salary or benefits, and ask whether you can substitute an increase in PTO for something else they’re offering you (like a small salary increase).

  24. Nicole*

    A better way to approach it would be to ask the higher ups if they would approve additional time off if it were needed. At this point, she doesn’t indicate that she is even planning on time off in excess of what she has, she just wants things to be more ‘fair’. Two weeks paid vacation is generous for a smaller employer for an brand new employee in addition to her (presumed) paid holidays and other likely benefits. I am continually appalled by the entitlement our younger population seems to feel to having the same perks as everyone else even though they have not put in the time to earn it.

  25. Vicki*

    One thing:

    “…you’re in the office two weeks more than SVPs…”

    Probably not. A lot of Americans celebrate Busyness [sic] to the extent that they may be granted more vacation time but they are “Much Too Busy To Take Vacation”.

  26. Anne*

    Others may have said this already – unless unused vacation is paid out at the end of the year, an extra week of paid vacation is NOT an increase in compensation. If you have a ‘Use or Lose’ policy (which so many employers do as there are no rules regarding unused vacation in the vast majority of the U.S.) there is no extra cost to the employer if they give you an extra week, except perhaps for any overtime needed to catch up on missed work.

  27. abhilash*

    please help me, i working in uae i want to go vacation i completed 2 years and 8 months i applied 80 days leave but my manager accepted only 60 days but its not enough for me because of my marriage and also i have one oppression for my right eye i want to mail manager please help me .

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